An estimated 800,000 federal employees were reportedly affected by this government shutdown, and put in positions of — as the media tell it — having to borrow money to buy groceries or make the untenable decision of paying rent or getting chemotherapy.
“Chemo or Rent? Shutdown Forces Heartbreaking Choices,” NBC Washington recently wrote in a headline.
But here’s another argument to toss in the mix: Jobs aren’t a human right. They’re certainly not American rights. And when economies sour, or political decisions based on regulatory policies lead to layoffs in the workforce, the private sector is hit pretty dang hard. Why should — why would — government workers expect any differently?
This is not to say those who find themselves in a position of unexpected layoff don’t deserve sympathy and assistance.
But this is to say that government workers aren’t exempt from the same types of economic and workplace realities that strike at the private sector labor force — nor should they be.
Think about this: Government workers, unlike private sector employees, truly serve at the pleasure of their taxpaying bosses. The real travesty is when the bosses are put in positions of economic vulnerability because of bad leadership by the public servants.
In 2011, the Heritage Foundation wrote this: “Obama’s War on the Private Sector is No Way to Create Jobs,” an analysis that went on to report on the country’s jobless rate above 9 percent.
In 2012, Obama said “the truth of the matter is … we’ve created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone” and that “the private sector is doing fine.”
That was at a time unemployment soared to 8-plus percent and the GDP was under 2 percent, as Business Insider noted.
In May of 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics blared of “Mass Layoffs” in a press release headline before going on to write: “Employers took 1,301 mass layoff actions in May involving 127,821 workers … Each mass layoff involved at least 50 workers from a single employer. Mass layoff events increased by 102 from April.”
In 2014, FiveThirtyEight reported, in a piece entitled, “Missing: Up to 4 Million Workers,” how “Americans [were] leaving the labor force at an unprecedented rate,” in part because “they stopped looking for [jobs.]”
And in November 2018, economist Daniel Mitchell wrote in the Foundation for Economic Education: “During his final days in office, I gave a thumbs-down assessment of Barack Obama’s presidency. Simply stated, he increased the burden of government during his tenure and that led to anemic economic numbers.”
Remember the “food-stamp president” people?
It wasn’t for nothing this nickname stuck; Obama’s policies, Obama’s regulatory whip, Obama’s derision toward the private sector — “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that” — worked its black magic and ultimately, drove companies to mass layoffs and workers to quit seeking the work they didn’t believe they could find.
By the masses — by the millions.
So now we’ve got 800,000 government workers who were facing a similar situation. Now we’ve got scores of federal employees who were trying to decide, hmm, do I pay the cable bill or save the money for gas for my car? It’s a lousy situation, that’s for sure.
But these workers will eventually get their missed paychecks back to pad their pockets.
Those private sector employees sent packing during the Obama years didn’t. Neither do private sector employees faced with sudden layoffs, or forced furloughs, or mandated pay cuts in today’s markets — or in any American capitalistic free-market market at any time, under any administration, facing any type of political or regulatory atmosphere.
So, my sympathies to the 800,000 feds.
But let’s keep in context: They’re no better than the private sector workers. They’re not guaranteed or owed jobs, either.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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